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Angels lose, and absorb the loss of Kendry Morales for season

Ervin Santana gives up five runs, four earned, and has his five-game victory streak snapped as Oakland wins, 6-1. Morales' injury is called too severe for him to return in 2010.

June 10, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Oakland -- The sting of a 6-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday felt even more acute for the Angels when they learned that first baseman Kendry Morales will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery earlier in the day.

The team held out some hope that Morales, who broke a bone above his left ankle when he leaped onto home plate after a walk-off grand slam against Seattle on May 29, would return in September.

But after repairing the fractured fibula, doctors determined that Morales' injury was too severe for him to return in 2010.

Even with Thursday's loss, in which Ervin Santana gave up five runs — four earned — and seven hits in five innings and had his five-game win streak snapped, the Angels have won nine of 12 games since Morales was hurt.

But do they have enough offense to absorb the loss of their most potent bat, a switch-hitter who led the team with a .290 average, 11 home runs and 39 runs batted in, for the rest of the season?

"That's a hot tamale, boss," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "You can't answer that. I think we have enough. We've been doing it for the last couple weeks. It would be cool to get somebody, but we don't have to. We've got to play our game, do what we have to do."

Manager Mike Scioscia was not given a timeline for Morales' rehabilitation and recovery, "but the only silver lining is that long term, it looks like everything will be fine," he said. "The prognosis looks good for him to get to where he needs to be."

Where does that leave the Angels this season?

That depends on whether they continue to get solid starting pitching, sound defense and hit as well as they have without Morales — they are batting .292 with 15 homers and 71 runs, an average of 5.9 a game, since the injury.

"We've lost players for periods of time, some big players who have missed chunks of the season, and we've been able to keep our heads above water," Scioscia said. "This can happen only if the other guys get into their game and contribute.

"I don't believe we're going to see Juan Rivera and Hideki Matsui hit .230, or Howie Kendrick and Bobby Abreu hit .260 for the whole year. There is not one guy who will bring what Kendry brings, but as a team, one through nine, I think you'll see some of that production absorbed."

Catcher Jeff Mathis was scheduled to play for triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday and Friday night before being activated off the disabled list either Saturday or Sunday against the Dodgers.

His return from a broken right wrist will probably push catcher Mike Napoli, who has started five games at first since Morales was hurt, into more of an everyday first-base role.

But that doesn't mean General Manager Tony Reagins will hold off on a trade for a first baseman while the Angels assess Napoli's viability as a long-term replacement.

Among the possible trade targets are Paul Konerko ( White Sox), Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks), Lance Berkman (Astros), Ty Wigginton (Orioles), Russell Branyon (Indians) and Xavier Nady (Cubs).

"If Tony finds something to improve the team, he'll act on it," Scioscia said. "If Mike is playing well at first, that will add depth and make us better. Right now, in talking to Tony, nothing is imminent. But I don't think Tony would put anything on hold if it's the right move for us."

Though the Angels braced themselves for the worst — even if Morales came back in September, it was doubtful he would have been much of a factor in 2010 — it was still difficult to comprehend Thursday's news.

"Kendry was a key part of our lineup, and to lose someone like that is tough," Hunter said. "Then, you know him as a person, and you don't want anyone like that to go through any kind of pain or surgery."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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